Our History

The Society of Jesus was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and nine companions (Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, Diego Laínez, Simão Rodrigues, Alfonso Salmerón, Nicolás Bobadilla, Claude Jay, Paschase Broët, Jean Codure) in the early 16th century.

St. Ignatius was a Basque nobleman, courtier and soldier, who later renounced his worldly ways and became a mystic. While studying at the University of Paris, Ignatius formed a fellowship with a group of students who shared his desire of serving the Lord.

Ignatius and six of the first companions took private vows after completing their studies, and had wanted to proceed to serve the Lord in the Holy Land. But they were unable to go due to the precarious situation there at the time. A mystical experience at La Storta, just outside the Eternal City, prompted Ignatius to lead the companions to Rome and place themselves under the service of the Pope. In 1540, their petition to become a religious institute was approved by Pope Paul III.


The first Jesuit to arrive in Malaya was St. Francis Xavier. He visited Malacca in 1545, and subsequently, he sent Fr. Francisco Perez and Br. Roque de Oliveira to Malacca to start a community and school. After Malacca had fallen to the Dutch in 1641, the Jesuits, together with other religious and priests, were expelled from Malacca.

The society returned to Malaya in the mid 20th century with the arrival of two French Jesuits by way of China- Frs. Andrew Joilet and Monsterleet from the Champagne province. Fr. Joilet started working at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Singapore, before moving north to serve in Kota Bahru, while Fr. Monsterleet did catechetical work among the school children in Singapore for a few months. They were soon followed by Jesuits from Canada and the United States. Fr. James Kearney from the Oregon province was the editor of the Malayan Catholic News from 1951 to 1959, and Canadian Frs. Berube and Eugene Audet were respectively assigned to work at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore and as chaplain to the Convent School in Penang.

Fr. Patrick Joy, an Irish Jesuit, was appointed superior of the Jesuits in Malaya in 1951. Soon after he arrived in Singapore, with the support of Bishop Michael Olcomendy, he initiated the construction of a hostel for trainee teachers. The Kingsmead Hall Jesuit community and student hostel started operations in 1954. The first Jesuit community in Singapore consisted of Frs. Patrick Joy, Kevin O'Dwyer, James Kearney and Brian Kelly, who also served as hostel warden. The Church of St. Ignatius, adjacent to Kingsmead Hall, was opened in 1961, and Fr. O'Dwyer became the first parish priest.

In 1955, Bishop Dominic Vendargon of the newly erected diocese of Kuala Lumpur invited the Jesuits to work there. They accepted the offer and started planning for the construction of a church and youth centre. The Church of St. Francis Xavier and Youth Centre were opened in 1961 in Petaling Jaya. Fr. Geoffrey Murphy was appointed parish priest, and Fr. Brian Kelly assumed the role of warden of the centre.